Weekend Highlights

Published December 16, 2013
Going Places

It’s Your Wonderful Life

by Taryn Zier

It’s not your traditional holiday fare, that’s for sure, but Jet City Improv’s show based on a holiday classic gives you something Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol cannot – the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen next.

It’s Your Wonderful Life is in its third season, but this year Jet City Improv has added 4 p.m. Saturday matinee performances to the mix in order to appeal to more families. There is no dragging tired kids out of bed the morning after a late-night show, no parking hassles or sky-high ticket prices … three good reasons to take in some improv this month!

Upon arrival, theater-goers fill out a short questionnaire. The actors peruse the papers ahead of time and one lucky audience member gets selected; the show is then acted out based on their life. It all happens within the framework of the beloved 1946 Frank Capra film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Billed as “appropriately irreverent,” Jet City’s show takes on its own one-of-a-kind, sideways narrative.  

The lady directly behind us in the audience, Nancy, was the chosen one. She wanted to be a ballerina when she was a little girl and had a grandparent who was a physical education teacher. Now the story began to take shape. We still had our deeply troubled protagonist, though female this time, who must choose between traveling to Paris to become a dancer or staying behind and leading the charge at the “P.E. and Loan.” It’s all barbells, push-ups, yoga poses and spilled Gatorade from here, folks.

Nancy gets her dance on with her crush, Tyler, to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” (also part of the audience member’s story). All hell breaks loose when the nuts and bolts holding up the building are used for a new exercise machine and they get a surprise visit from an inspector. The scheming Potter (also female in this show, although it alternates) is on track to take over the P.E. and Loan, but Nancy and Tyler use their wedding gifts – performance medals – to placate those knocking on their door.

The more “off their rocker” the characters acted, the more my 9- and 7-year-old kids liked them. My kids had a special affinity for Snippy-Snap, Nancy’s not-all-there sister, and Tyler, who was never really the same after a college football injury, poor guy. My husband and I were in awe of the actors’ ability to think on their feet and keep the story steadily moving ahead.

The show appeals to a wide range of ages. As eccentric as the storyline was, my kids followed along attentively. The theater is small and intimate, so they were right up close to the action. The show only runs 90 minutes, which is short enough they didn't get wiggly in their seats. And while they didn't get every joke, there wasn’t any swearing or anything overtly crass to worry about in the show.

Jet City Improv offers a casual environment for the audience. There is popcorn, candy and drinks for sale, which you can bring into the theater. There is also a bar bedecked with holiday lights, in case you’d like a fun little concoction for the show.  

My husband and I have seen It’s a Wonderful Life countless times, but our kids were engaged with the story for the first time. I was pleased that the message really got them thinking. What would life be like if they didn't exist? While we were just out for a good time amidst all of the holiday madness, we left the show thinking about how special we are and how we leave indelible marks on this world, especially on our loved ones.


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If You Go...

Where: Jet City Improv, 5510 University Way N.E., Seattle.

When: Now through Dec. 21, Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m.

Cost: $15 adults; $12 kids, seniors and military.

Contact: 206-352-8291; www.jetcityimprov.com.